CROWN POINT | A Lake County court ordered the body of Christian Choate released to his biological mother Friday during a hearing in advance of his father's murder trial.
The 13-year-old boy's body was found in May 2011 in a shallow grave in a Black Oak mobile home park -- two years after officials say he died.
His father, Riley Choate, 40, faces a host of charges besides murder in connection with the boy's death. Christian's stepmother, Kimberly Kubina, 47, pleaded guilty in May to a neglect charge.
The plea deal calls for a prison sentence of 25 to 30 years when sentencing is argued following Choate's trial.
The boy's body has been in the possession of the Lake County coroner. On Friday, Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell ordered the body to be released to his mother, identified as Aimee Eriks in court records.
The boy's maternal grandfather, Bernard Eriks, had requested the boy's remains if Boswell ruled against his daughter.
In a letter to Boswell, Bernard Eriks said the boy held a special place in his and his wife's hearts due to their having raised the boy the first couple years of his life.
Also Friday, Boswell set another pretrial hearing for Riley Choate — responding to another request by Choate for a change of attorney.
Choate is represented by Hammond attorney Randy Godshalk. Godshalk has made attempts to withdraw from the case because Choate has run out of money to pay him.
Godshalk proposed continuing to represent Choate for the reduced pay of a public defender, but Boswell turned down the offer, saying it would set a bad precedent.
Choate complained Friday about being kept in the dark on his case and asked for a public defender. Saying the trial was only a month away, Boswell denied the request but set another hearing on the matter for Sept. 21.
In other developments, court records state Boswell late last month denied a written request from Choate's girlfriend, Penny Murray, of Hammond, to marry Choate, who divorced Kubina since the couple's arrest last year.
"I have stood by his side proudly and will continue to do so," Murray wrote Boswell.
Murray's letter indicates an out-of-town relative of Choate would be available to stand in for Choate between Sept. 19 and Oct. 31.